Marianas Southern Airways First Flights On August 12

The Mariana Archipelago is about to get a new airline. On August 12, Marianas Southern Airways will start flying between Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands using Italian-made Tecnam P2012 Traveler turboprops. The little airline will bring some much-needed interisland connectivity to the region by initially offering flights between Saipan (SPN) to Tinian (TNI), Saipan to Rota (ROP), and Saipan to Guam (GUM).

First Marianas Southern Airways flights take off on August 12

The routes will roll out in the space of a single week. Flights between Saipan and Tinian will start on August 12, Saipan and Rota on August 15, and Saipan and Guam on August 19. The shortest hop between Saipan and Tinian will only take 15 minutes, and the fledgling airline’s longest route, Saipan to Guam, will take 50 minutes. Marianas Southern Airways has a pair of twin-engine P2012 turboprops and, like all self-respecting airline startups, is eyeing more aircraft in the not-too-distant future. Specifically, the airline is forecasting six planes with 12 months.

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“As we increase our fleet, we will increase the frequency of our services to Tinian, Rota and Guam, including the addition of Rota-Guam and Tinian-Guam flights based upon demand,” Marianas Southern Airways President Keith Stewart said in a statement.

Marianas Southern Airlines describes their P2012s as advanced twin-engine turbocharged piston aircraft. The nine-seat Tecnam planes include a few passenger comforts such as LED reading lights, overhead air-conditioning controls and ergonomic seats with a USB port, armrest, and cup holder for each passenger – just the thing for a short interisland hop.

The interior of a Tecnam P2012 turboprop. Photo: Tecnam

Marianas Southern Airways brings some interisland connectivity back to the Mariana Archipelago

Marianas Southern Airways is a joint venture partnership between Saipan investors and Florida-based Southern Airways Express, one of the largest commuter airlines in the United States. The Marianas Southern Airways website says Southern Airways Express is the parent company of Mokulele Airlines, which serves more airports in Hawaii than any other airline.

Like many Pacific nations thinly spread out across scores or even hundreds of islands, interisland connectivity is a longstanding challenge in the Mariana Archipelago. Airlines come and go, unable to turn a dollar and frequently running out of cash fast. The pandemic didn’t help matters. Airlines that do fly in tend to concentrate on the Guam Airport regional hub and, to a lesser extent, SPN. Local commuter airline Cape Air discontinued interisland services four years ago.

Southern Airways’ demonstrated expertise in short interisland hops is what drew local company and Marianas Southern Airways part owner, MP Enterprises, to the bigger airline. For Southern Airways, it’s a matter of replicating what works in Hawaii, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. And while the better-known Cessna Grand Caravan was a contender when choosing aircraft to fly the first Marianas Southern Airways routes, the Tecnam P2012 Traveler won out because it works particularly well on short routes.

Image: Marianas Southern Airways

A good bet for Southern Airways

Southern Airways also thought it was important to send new planes to their new subsidiary airline, and Tecnam had new planes ready to go. Plus, with just nine seats, these Tecnam turboprops can fly super thin routes profitability – just what a financially successful airline in this part of the world needs to do.

These islands, without good reliable air transportation, really nothing can happen other than taking boats between the islands and, so just having reliable and constant service between the islands will only have great benefits not just to Guam but also the Northern Marina Islands,” Mr. Stewart says.

“The main thing that we are trying to do is we really want to partner with the community and have a commitment to the community and really become a part of it. I think we have a unique opportunity right now to do so.”

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